Unemployment claims have shot up in New York State, with the largest rise in first-time claims coming from New Yorkers as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic leaves millions out-of-work.
Initial jobless claims rose more than 9,000 in New York during the week ending September 19th, from 61,897 to 71,300, according to the latest U.S. Department of Labor figures released Thursday. Georgia had the second highest spike in claims, from 42,085 to 48,472 people filing for unemployment, followed by California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Another 41,000 people applied for pandemic unemployment assistance in New York State, an expanded benefit for gig workers and contractors under the federal CARES Act, up by 9,700 from the week before.
Across the country, nearly 870,000 people filed for unemployment, about 4,000 more than the week prior, according to the new seasonally adjusted statistic.
All told, as of September 5th nationwide, 26 million people were receiving some type of jobless benefit, 3.7 million fewer than the week before. But that is still about 17.5 times higher than a "comparable week in 2019," the federal labor department said.
Despite the sign of more layoffs, the official unemployment rate for August improved slightly across NY, the state's Department of Labor figures released Tuesday show. The rate dropped to 12.5% from 15.9% last month in the state.
In NYC, the unemployment rate remains staggeringly high compared to other metro-areas—with the worst of it in the Bronx, where the unemployment rate remains at 21.1%.
The official unemployment rate citywide was 16.3% in August, the lowest the unemployment rate had been since April, when it was 16.5 percent.
Brooklyn and Queens unemployment rates were 16.5% and 16.4%, respectively, while Manhattan and Staten Island saw a 12.9% and 13.8% rate, respectively.
The already-bleak numbers spell out a more unnerving picture under a different way of calculating unemployment.
An economist at The New School, James Parrott, told Gothamist the unemployment rate, in reality, is nearly double that of the official rates—32% citywide, with the highest in the Bronx at 41%, according to his latest calculations for August 2020.
Parrott's numbers, an update from a report last month, are based on an unemployment rate that looks at how many people are getting unemployment payments as a share of the city's labor force from February, rather than a survey based on whether an unemployed person had been actively looking for a job.
The share of people receiving unemployment under his calculations was closer to 33% in Brooklyn, 34% in Queens, 26% in Staten Island, and 22% in Manhattan.
The high rates in the Bronx "underscores the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on our community," Eileen Torres, the executive director of BronxWorks, a non-profit providing social services, said in a statement about the new state labor department figures.
"It signals that even as our city slowly reopens amid COVID-19, low-income communities like the Bronx—which this spring experienced some of the highest rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths—will also have the longest road to recovery," Torres said.
The non-profit served 533% more families at its Saturday pantries in August compared to January, she said.
"Even before the pandemic, the Bronx consistently recorded the highest rates of unemployment, housing insecurity, and hunger in the city," Torres said. "These challenges are not new—the pandemic has only shined a light on the vulnerabilities of our community, and we need long-term solutions."
Meanwhile, USAToday reports the possibility of another coronavirus relief package has been overshadowed by uproar over who should fill the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat—and more importantly, when.
New York approved the second and final round of three weeks worth of the $300 federal payments late last week.
The department commissioner Roberta Reardon said it was "unconscionable" support would be cut off. "Leaders in Washington D.C. must pass a comprehensive package that supports unemployed families and the state and local governments that are hurting from this pandemic," she said at the time. "Anything less is simply unacceptable."